PARIS – Although the stone church that looms over Main Street appears solid and enduring, it is crumbling internally and requires about $800,000 in restoration work.
The Rev. Walter Webb, pastor of Deering Memorial United Methodist Church, said the building is about 100 years old, and was built to replace an earlier wooden one that church members had outgrown.
Inside, water is damaging the mortar that holds the great stones together, and the stones are sinking, straining the walls and the foundation. Windows, too, are beginning to buckle.
“When the water comes in, we can see the damage to the ceiling get worse and worse, but fortunately we’re not reduced to holding umbrellas yet,” Webb said.
Also, the iron beam running across the church is beginning to rust, further weakening the walls.
To repair the church, some of the stones need to be pulled down with a crane and the mortar replaced. The iron beam needs to be scraped clean and treated to prevent it from rusting again.
Because the job is labor intensive, the costs will be high. The congregation is holding a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, to devise a fundraising strategy.
Nearly 90 people belong to the church, although on a given Sunday, about 30 to 35 people show up for the sermon. The church is hoping that more people will be interested in helping save the church because it is a local landmark, and a unique one.
The church will also investigate grants from organizations that support the restoration of historical buildings.
“Within three to four years it ought to get done,” Webb said. “But the sooner the better, because it’s only going to get worse.”